Did I ever tell you there was a time I didn’t have friends?
To make matters worse I wasn’t just friendless, I was bullied as well. I don’t remember much from that time. Few of us do I suppose. All I remember is that it felt like a long, bleak, rainy autumn filled with endless grey skies. It didn’t surprise me when my mom told me, years later, that wasn’t invited to birthday parties for a whole year back then. That might sound petty, but it’s a pretty big deal when you’re six years old. People back then seemed mostly mean, capricious, and intend on causing me harm or embarrassment. And then there you were.
You liked to tell me what was on your mind and to listen to what I had to say. We shared stories, joked around and did all kinds of things together. One doubt always lingered though. Why were you friends with me? That I could never grasp. Friendship came to me as grace. Beautiful, but undeserved.
For years this was how I experienced friendship. I adored my friends, but in the back of my mind I never believed that you could consider yourself my friend. “Wasn’t it absurd”, I thought, “that a person would want to be my friend?” Being abandoned or cast out always were possibilities I feared. And then there you were.
It was December 2012, the end of my Erasmus exchange and the middle of yours. We had gone outside to escape the party for a moment. I could probably still point out the spot. We talked about our Christmas holidays, future plans, what we would be doing the next semester. “We’ll really miss you”, you suddenly said. When I asked you to explain, it became clear that this was what everyone agreed on when the subject of people leaving came up.
Finally I understood. What I had so long known rationally I now felt in my heart as well: that you are my friend, in your eyes as well as mine. It has made friendship only more precious.
At times, when we are all together, I wish I could lay still the conversation just to say: “I’m really happy to be here with all of you now.” At times, I wish I could embrace you for no reason. (You’re probably glad I don’t.) At times, I regret that you live so far away now, but I trust that we’ll meet again and I look forward to when we do.
Your every act of friendship brings forth a moment of beauty and life would have so much less meaning without it. Thank you for being there.